Back on track to childhood memories

By Liam Nash

Attempting to recapture forgotten childhoods in this day and age may seem like trying to trap lightning in a bottle, but Mal McLeod is doing exactly that at Hobby Boss.

Nestled among the industrial clamour of Shepparton’s Lockwood Rd, Hobby Boss pays homage to a much simpler time when slot cars and collectables dominated the toy industry.

Mal said his childhood hobby of playing with model cars never seemed to die. Instead, it turned into a job when he retired from the air force.

“It’s a passion of mine, the remote-control slot cars and whatnot,” he said.

After being involved in another hobby store in Canberra, Mal made the switch back to Shepparton to be closer to family and opened Hobby Boss to share his passion with the locals.

The store hosts an array of model cars, boats and trucks that provide hobbyists with a link to a period where petrol was a dollar a gallon and the Holden Commodore ruled Australian roads — the focal point of Mal’s decision to open Hobby Boss.

But as Mal says, it is “much more than your average hobby store”.

Walking past the pint-sized Porsches and mini Mustangs to the back of the store is like stepping into a dream.

M odel cars for every taste and every race — just like the real thing, they can all be modified for speed and handling.

The hum of tiny slot cars hurtling around racetrack upon racetrack permeates throughout the open warehouse, accompanied by the occasional squawk from Mal’s birdcage or meow from the in-house cat, creating an amusing cacophony of joy that drags you right back to the 1980s.

“The slot cars and tracks are just a twist on a standard hobby shop — they are something that I did with my autistic son back in Canberra, and I thought it was a good idea here because I could see all the fun people were having as well,” Mal said.

“They are the grass roots of doing something that is quite simple, everything is so complicated these days — with this you have got a car in a slot, and away it goes.”

But Mal says the mini electric automobiles are a far cry from the dollar store Matchbox cars given to kids refusing to cease the waterworks, mentioning the modifications possible are comparable to those of the speed machines flying around the tracks at Bathurst.

“It is no different to a V8 Supercar, you can change the handling and all the rest of it — and the more you develop it, the faster it will go.

“At the end of the day it is like anything — you can make it go faster and you can tune it.”

Holding slot car races every Wednesday from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm, Hobby Boss gives everyday nine-to-fivers an excuse to throw down the tools and pick up a controller in the name of healthy competition.

At the rear of the store is a bewildering set-up of racing tracks.

“For some people I think it is a touch back to their childhood, especially the older guys,” Mal said.

“Some guys come back for the competitive side of it, and for some of them it’s a chance to have a laugh away from work.

“At the end of the day, it is just an outlet and it’s something different.”

Mal challenges anyone who hasn’t ventured into his neck of the woods to visit Hobby Boss and rediscover a piece of their childhood.

“Come down and have a look, you will be surprised at what we have.”